It's a calm, temperate Sunday morning. I'm walking along the base of the cliffs along Torrey Pines beach, a stretch of San Diego's coastline. Inexplicably, I'm whistling the Rolling Stones' "Time Is On My Side." Why? Maybe because I'd just done some long exposure experiments. Maybe because it was a rare day where I didn't need to rush off to the next commitment. Maybe I just like the song.
Time. My mind is wandering now. I'm thinking about time. About photography. And how they intertwine. This is an interesting pool of thought to soak in for a while...
Capturing the moment – that's what it's all about. Freezing that instant in time. An instant that can transcend generations. A great photograph.
Modern cameras freeze time very well. High speed cameras can capture a bullet piercing an apple. The really, really expensive ones capture the electrons dancing. I've been privy to capture a few of these moments. I strive to capture many more.
Passage of Time
A photograph can convey the passage of time. Fallen leaves at the base of an oak tree. The wise, wrinkled face of the elderly. Abandoned buildings slowly being reclaimed by the elements, only hinting at their former glory days.
A shorter span of time is possible too. The blur of a car, train, or runner moving through the frame. As a landscape lover, I often capture the motion of nature. Smooth, flowing water, the clouds dragging across the sky.
Illusion of Time
I love a good sunset. However, I'm 8 minutes late. Every time. Light takes 8 minutes to travel from the sun to Earth. When the sun is half-dipped over the horizon and I press the shutter, it's actually long gone. The sun isn't actually setting. It's the Earth turning its back on the sun. The sunset is an illusion.
Einstein, Hawking, Tyson. Pick your favorite astro-physicist. Star-gazing is looking backwards in time. The sun is just another star... it so happens to be close by. Photos of the Milky Way are images of what our galaxy once looked like. Some star light takes millions of years to reach Earth. A star may be long dead, yet it is still in my camera. And star trails... captures both the passage of time and an illusion.
The Time Machine
Photography is the ultimate time machine. Our eyes time travel on a cosmic scale. With photography, time travel is on a human scale. A scale we more easily grasp. And arguably one that is more personal and meaningful to us. Every photo can transport us back in time.
Have you ever found an old box of photos in your grandparents' house? Or your parents' house? They are fascinating to look through. My children marveled at the few photos I have of my childhood. In our fast paced world, we probably consume more photos in a week than the previous generation took in month. Maybe more.
As I write this, it's a reminder to me to, from time to time, climb into my photography time machine and look back and photos from years past. Family gatherings, vacations, goofing around the house. The photography time machine has taken me on some of the best journeys of my life.
When it comes to photography, I always want more time. More time to shoot. More time to learn. More time to process, write, create, share. More time to spend on what's important in life – your passions. My daughter asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year and without skipping a beat I said "More time." Someday, she'll understand what I truly mean.
/ September 2014 /